Two Writ Petitions had been filed in the year 2003 before the Supreme Court concerning the right to shelter of homeless persons in urban areas. However, these petitions were pending for about 13 years without any effective orders. In an order passed on 11 November 2016 in the said two writ petitions [WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) No. 55 of 2003 – E. R. KUMAR & ANR V. UNION OF INDIA & ORS, and WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) No. 572 of 2003 – DEEPAN BORA V. UNION OF INDIA], a 3-judge bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, Justices Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and L. Nageswara Rao, noticed that in spite of the availability of funds and a clear mechanism through which to disburse these funds, the situation on the ground is extremely unsatisfactory despite the continuous monitoring of the matter by the Court. The Supreme Court directed appointment of a committee for protection of homeless in the towns/cities in view of the winter approaching fast.
The attention of the court was invited to the “Scheme of Shelters for Urban Homeless”, issued by the Government of India, Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, which referred to the National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM). The NULM Mission Document also stated that providing shelters equipped with essential services to the urban homeless in a phased manner was a top priority. The location and design of shelters and the funding pattern of the Scheme of Shelters for Urban Homeless was discussed in detail in the Mission Document.
It was brought to the notice of the Supreme Court that under National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM) an amount of Rs. 2185.50 crores was made available to the States/UTs and the total expenditure reported by the States is Rs. 1222.90 crores. However, the court noted that the laudable objective with which the National Urban Livelihood Mission and the Scheme for Shelters for Urban Homeless were introduced was not achieved due to ineffective implementation.
The court noted that in spite of several directions, the infrastructure for the shelter homes has not been achieved and that providing the requisite infrastructure is only the first step, thereafter the other facilities have to be provided and proper maintenance of the shelter homes has to be ensured. The court noted that the mission of NULM remains a distant dream even after the lapse of a long period.
The court observed as under:
“A careful consideration of the submissions of the parties and the material on record discloses that the destitute in urban areas continue to suffer without shelters. The Union of India has formulated a Scheme and released huge amounts of money to the State Governments. The State Governments are responsible for the implementation of the Scheme. The reasons for non utilization of funds for the welfare scheme are not forthcoming.”
Noting that in spite of the availability of funds and a clear mechanism through which to disburse them, there was an extremely unsatisfactory state of affairs on the ground, and that yet another winter approaches and enough has not been done for protection of many homeless in our towns/cities, the Supreme Court issued the following directions:
- A Committee is constituted which will have Mr. Justice Kailash Gambhir, retired Judge, High Court of Delhi as its Chairman with an officer of the Joint Secretary cadre from the Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation to be deputed by the Union of India and an officer, serving or retired, from the Delhi Judicial Service to be nominated by the Chief Justice of the High Court of Delhi in consultation with the Chairperson of the Committee as Members. The last mentioned shall be the Member Secretary of the Committee.
- The Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation shall be the Nodal Ministry to provide all logistical support to the Committee.
- The Chairman of the Committee shall be entitled to all such emoluments/perquisites and facilities as are admissible to any retired Judge, when holding a post retirement assignment like Chairperson of the State Consumer Commissions except residential accommodation. The Committee may not require any regular office space but should there be any such requirement it may take up the matter with the relevant authority.
- The Committee shall cause physical verification of the available shelters for urban homeless in each State/UT.
- The Committee shall also verify whether the shelters are in compliance of the operational guidelines for the Scheme of Shelters for Urban Homeless under the National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM).
- The Committee shall inquire into the reasons for the slow progress in the setting up of shelter homes by the States/UTs.
- The Committee shall further inquire about the non-utilization and/or diversion/misutilization of the funds allocated for the Scheme for providing shelters to the urban homeless.
- The Committee shall issue suitable recommendations to the State Governments to ensure that at least temporary shelters are provided for the homeless in the urban areas to protect them during the winter season. The State Governments shall ensure compliance with the recommendations along the time frame indicated by the Committee. Any non implementation shall be drawn to the attention of this Court.
- The Committee is directed to submit its report within a period of four months.
The Supreme Court further directed to list the matter after four months.
Read the full order of the Supreme Court: